Choose a Boss, Not a Company

By David Bellm

Most job seekers look to join quality organizations with great reputations. But ultimately, it’s the quality of your direct supervisor that matters. Here are some important insights on why you should shop for a boss more than a company.

Common job search wisdom puts tremendous emphasis on picking top-flight companies with stellar potential and tremendous compensation potential. But all-too-many job seekers have followed that advice, taken up with a supposedly great company, and found that the job is almost unbearable.

How can this be? It’s a terrific company, with supposedly all the earmarks of the ideal place to work. The answer lies in the fact that the idea of seeking a great company is simplistic.

You are, in fact, seeking a great boss. And sometimes such star supervisors can be found in the most mediocre organizations. Here are some things to think about when choosing a boss to work for.

Every Great Company Has its Losers

No matter how highly rated an organization is, there are always some not-so-hot people that slip through the cracks. Chances are they were hired by another similarly mediocre-performing exception in the company. People often seek their own traits when choosing potential employees. What’s more, what might make the person a bad boss might not be the criteria they were interviewed for to begin with. Many potential managers are unfortunately rated more on their operational and technical experience than any sort of people skills they possess. If nothing else, a great company’s “bad egg” might have been pretty good at the job he was hired for, and then promoted past his abilities.

Seek a True Collaborator

Ideally, you’re looking for someone with whom you have great chemistry. Like any relationship, the signs are usually there from the beginning. Do you feel as though you genuinely like this person? Could you imagine enjoying time with this person even if you weren’t working together? Most people feel the signs of these things in their gut, but ignore such intuitive indicators. Don’t or you could be sorry later.

Ask the Tough Questions

Beyond your own gut feeling about a potential supervisor, ask questions that really matter. Use behavioral questions to find out the real nature of how he manages. Probe to determine how he sees his role as a supervisor. And seek information on what the person sees as his career path. It would after all, be a real letdown to team up with a great boss, only for him to hit the road and leave after a couple months.

Build a Traveling Team

The ideal in looking for a great boss is to find one you collaborate so well with that your careers become intertwined for mutual benefit. This is the ultimate form of synergy, in which two people form a sort of traveling team. In such an arrangement, when one person moves up and leaves the company, he immediately seeks to bring the other along, using the combined power of the duo abilities and reputation to propel both people ever higher.



  • Cubicles: The Art of Working With Distractions
  • Dressing Properly for Your Job Interview
  • Confessions of an Interviewer